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Special guests read to Willamette

Readers visit during the schools Read to Me week Feb. 3-7


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Veterinarian Christine Ortner reads to students during Willamette Primary Schools Read to Me week Feb. 5.It’s not often that you can find a scuba diver, a chef, a paleontologist, a rally car driver, an astronomer or a jazz musician at a typical primary school. It’s even rarer to find them all.

In that case, West Linn’s Willamette Primary is definitely not your typical school. Each of those people were among the interesting professionals who visited the school the week of Feb. 3 during the school’s annual Read to Me week.

Each day during the week, 36 adult volunteers or teams stopped by the school to visit classrooms, talk with kids, answer their questions and — you guessed it — read stories aloud to students.

In fact, because the school lost a full day during the week to snow closure, some rescheduled readers will be visiting Willamette this week too.

“It was a lot of fun,” Christine Ortner said. A veterinarian who works at Cascade Summit Animal Hospital, she visited a kindergarten class as well as a first-grade class at Willamette.

“I read them a story about animals and let the kids each have one turn asking a question and telling me about their pets,” Ortner said. “I definitely look forward to doing it again next year.”

A parent of three herself, Ortner said she has a lot of practice reading to her own children. She also has visited schools to read to kids. She’s learned some valuable lessons along the way.

“Never bring a live animal,” she said. “It’s too distracting, so now I bring a stuffed animal as the model now. My first time, I brought a golden retriever and lost all control.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - After reading to students at Willamette Primary School, veterinarian Christine Ortner gave each child a package full of materials to take home.In addition to her book and her stuffed animal, Ortner brought some props.

“I brought all my tools, my otoscope, my stethoscope and tried to relate it to them,” she said. “Your doctor looks into your ears. Veterinarians are doctors too.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Christine Ortner visits a classroom at Willamette Primary during the schools weeklong Read to Me event.The weeklong event was organized by two Willamette parents, Jennifer Tabor and Stacy Spengler. And the variety of readers was a conscious choice. The committee worked hard to select “exciting and hopefully visually interesting readers,” Tabor said.

Although no one quite remembers when the first Read to Me Week was held, the tradition seems to be at least 12 or 15 years old. And it’s a constantly evolving process, even after all that time. Sometimes the word “reader” is used loosely, Spengler said.

“It’s kind of evolved over the years,” she said. “(Willamette Counselor Mark) Silverman likes it because it’s kind of a ‘career day’ kind of activity. ... We’ve been morphing a little bit into more what the teachers are wanting. Sometimes it’s curriculum based, sometimes it what their students are interested in.”

By all accounts, Willamette students enjoyed the way the event unfolded. And most of the visitors also enjoyed themselves.

“The children were fabulous,” Ben Crabtree said. A paleontologist, he brought along samples of fossils found in Oregon and Montana.

“Everyone had fun with the material, and the students were so respectful and interested,” he said. “I would definitely recommend this opportunity to anyone that had the time to share their stories with ... students.”


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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